Clara Erskine Clement, later Waters, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of John Erskine, a businessman, and his wife Harriet. She was educated at home by private tutors. In 1852, she married James Hazen Clement, also a businessman, and moved to Newton, Massachusetts. After the death of her first husband, in 1882 she remarried to Edwin Forbes Waters, an author and owner of the Boston Daily Advertiser. She traveled extensively in Europe, visited Palestine and Turkey, and made a world tour in 1883-84. She was the author of numerous books about her travels as well as art histories and Christian histories.